London Crawling

Lynn organized a London weekend to celebrate her birthday. She and Richard flew down from Scotland and Possum and I met them for a West End show, Lady Day.  Lynn arranged everything—hotel rooms, tickets for the show, and a pre-show meal.  Of course we bought her presents too, but it’s the fun times like these what we remember later, right?  Not the stuff.

From London I would go to Stonehenge the next day.  A friend who was coming from Minnesota was supposed to have gone with me, but back problems forced her to cancel her trip.

This highlighted a dilemma about travel planning.  Do you buy travel insurance?  I never do, but my friend had and she got a refund for her flights. She paid around $80 for the insurance, but that was nothing compared to losing $1,400.

I had already paid for the Stonehenge tickets.  I couldn’t find anyone to join me so I was out the price of one ticket, about $20.  Should I have waited to buy the tickets?  No, because Stonehenge books up fast in the summer, especially on the day we wanted, which happened to be on the full moon.

My friend had reserved for our tickets for Windsor Castle.  She couldn’t get a refund for them, so she was out $20 and we came out even.

Whenever I lose money like this I consider it a donation to the National Trust.  Lord knows they need it.  Losing triple digits to Expedia or Delta?  That can’t be shrugged off.  Next time I book a flight I’ll look into flight insurance and whether my credit card covers anything.

As usual I meticulously planned my jaunt into London and the boomerang bus ride I would have to undergo to get to Stonehenge.  More about the latter later.

This was the first time I would catch a bus from Waterloo, as opposed to the tube.  When you get off the train at Waterloo the signs quickly devolve from the helpful “All London Bus Stops” with an arrow, to “Buses,” with an arrow, to what could be interpreted as a bus icon with an arrow, to nothing. When I exited the station, there were clearly marked bus stops A through E, but no F, which was what I needed.

London is a mob scene any day of the year, but this was the day of the London Pride parade.  The city was teeming with revelers in rainbow wigs, hats, T-shirts—singing, drinking, laughing and having a great time.

Overstimulated, I started to feel the usual panic that I was lost.  I would never find the right bus stop, would never get to the hotel, I would probably end up unconscious in an alleyway, my ID gone and with amnesia; I would wake up in a locked mental unit, blah, blah, blah.

I’ve written in detail about this syndrome of mine. This summer was good practice for me to just notice it—not try to push it away but not indulge it—and carry on.

Think, Anne—think.  Or better yet, look at the area map five feet in front of you.  Stop F was just around the corner.  In fact once you knew the plan, it was obvious that the stops were arrayed in alphabetical order around a gigantic roundabout.  You just couldn’t tell it was a roundabout because it was impossible to get a view of the whole thing, with pubs and souvenir shops and hundreds of double decker buses blocking the sightlines.

The people watching was so good, I didn’t start to worry again until the third Number 4 bus drove past with an Out of Service sign.  Others who were waiting shrugged and started to walk.  There was no way I could walk—should I take a cab?

Just then, a Number 4 arrived and I happily dumped my exact fare in coins into the collection plate.

“No cash, love,” the driver said.  “Cards only.”

I dug out my credit card and tried to swipe it.  “No, love—Oyster cards.”

Damn.  I hadn’t gotten around to buying one.  But in line with the general celebratory mood of the day, the driver winked and waved me aboard.

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